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Sizes - humans and their basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Steve Freides, Oct 30, 2013.


  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I've been playing pretty seriously for the last month or two, and I find, the more I pay attention to my bow arm, the more I realize that maybe my bass is too big for me, or at least the peg isn't out enough because I have to stretch/lean too far to play midway between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge.

    I've been gradually pulling more peg out, and probably have my instrument a good 2" or more higher than I did a month ago.

    I've also been a German bower but am learning French now and spend some of every practice session and everyone lesson doing both. Some observations:

    It's less reach bowing French.

    I'm 5' 7", and relatively short-legged and long torso-ed for my height. Do people my size often track down and play smaller than the 3/4 size I have, e.g., a 5/8 or 1/2 size?

    The extra peg length means the nut is maybe higher than my forehead by a little, maybe it's at my hairline where it used to be at my eybrows, give or take, but it's not bothering me so far.

    Comments and suggestions from those of you here who are much more experienced than me will be appreciated. NB: None of this seems an issue for jazz/pizz, just arco, and my focus is on orchestral and therefore arco playing.

    Thanks in advance for your replies.

    -S-
     
  2. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Could you post some pictures or a demonstration of you playing in a few different positions on Youtube?

    It is possible that your bass is too big for you, but i would first assume this is a setup/posture issue.

    Can you give us a visual/aural reference?
     
  3. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I will try to do that tomorrow and post it here.

    -S-
     
  4. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I am a little shorter than you (5' 5"), but like you I have short-ish legs and a longer torso. I think I might have slightly long arms, too.

    My bass is probably a 7/8ths, or perhaps a large 3/4. Currently, I play with the endpin all the way in while seated on a stool that's about 29" or 30" high. This puts the nut at about eyebrow level for me, which is a rough heuristic I heard once from a teacher I trusted (but exactly who I can no longer recall).

    At your size, you should probably be able to set up a normal bass where you can reach virtually anywhere, although you should certainly be careful about your posture so that you don't injure yourself (ie, if you make an adjustment and it starts to hurt, make a different adjustment, or stop and find someone to help).
     
  5. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    You fit well within range of most shop-made 3/4 basses. My ex-wife is 5"2" and has been playing the same 3/4 size basses for 48 years. An good instructor may be able to help you over any mechanical hurdles that you may have. Good luck!
     
  6. RSBBass

    RSBBass

    Jun 11, 2011
    NYC
    It is also possible that your finger board is a bit long.
     
  7. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    You know, folks, the mention of posture is interesting. I have a long history of a bad back but I've also become a competitive powerlifter and tend to have a pretty upright posture.

    The combination of an upright posture and a stiff back means I tend not to bend over the little bit necessary to get the bow where it needs to be - just that thought took care of a lot, and I put the bass back down an inch or so.

    I have a lesson on Sunday and will go over all this with my teacher, too.

    Many thanks, everyone.
     
  8. SeaMist_au

    SeaMist_au

    Aug 28, 2012
    Australia
    I had to do exactly the same thing. I have short legs and because of that sit relatively low with the pin well out and the bass sitting well back. I use an endpin stop to prevent it escaping. Nut is just above my left ear. It seems to work for me. My understanding is that the French bow is better if you are having reach problems but in my case I still use german as it seems to be more arthritis friendly. I'm loving arco, just a beautiful sound.
     
  9. Steve,

    My feeling is that even for normal orchestral work you need to be able to reach about 3/4 of the way between the finger board end and bridge (about where you need to bow when playing at the octave or a major second above). But you must also be able to bow comfortably only a couple of inches below the board edge (where you need to bow when in half position).

    You can't cover all that range without some accomodation from the arm and shoulder. You have to be able to stretch some.

    Where your nut ends up once you've got the bowing worked out really doesn't matter much. The rule of thumb I learned was the first finger in half position should be pointing at the eye brow, but I have seen good orchestra players with it set higher.
     
  10. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Still waiting on those pics!
     
  11. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    It'll be the weekend here soon, and I'll get my wife to take some pictures - was a crazy week and we did try once but the pix didn't come out.

    -S-
     
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Bend from the hips.
     
  13. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    Good advice. Don't keep your back overly stiff, but use your bigger joints and your bigger muscles.
     

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